Quick hits from Bruins camp


BOSTON – A little of this and a little of that from today at Bruins training camp.


Another year, another step closer to an NHL job?

We’ll see how it plays out for the 2015 first rounder in his fifth Boston training camp, but it certainly appears that he’s going to get his best opportunity yet to graduate from Providence to the NHL.

One factor in Senyshyn’s favor is that he is more comfortable this time around. He doesn’t hesitate to say he was star-struck in his first couple of camps. “You see Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, it’s like, ‘I’m in a video game,’” he said.

“I definitely feel like my game’s matured a lot. I got a taste of it at the end of last year. I’ve got that confidence. It definitely lit that fire under me, black acing for the playoffs. It was awesome, being a part of the team,’’ he said.

“The whole summer my goal was to make sure I set myself up as best as possible to make that final roster. I was really focused and came here early and ready to work. It’s given me a lot less stress and anxiety this year in camp. I’m really just focusing on what I do well.’’

In the first two days on the ice, Senyshyn has skated at right wing on a line with Jack Studnicka and Brad Marchand.

“When they put you with a guy like (Marchand), it’s an opportunity to learn in practice and be a part of it. It’s awesome to be able to talk to him about what I need to do to make the team,’’ he said.


In Boston’s training camp 12 months ago, the notion that Connor Clifton would finish the year as an NHL regular and be a postseason contributor on a Stanley Cup finalist was far-fetched, to say the least.

And yet that’s exactly how it played out as the young defenseman vaulted over more highly touted prospects to earn a place in Boston’s lineup.

Heading into what he hopes will be his first full NHL season, Clifton is quick to credit the coaching he received while spending the better part of two seasons in Providence under head coach Jay Leach and assistants Spencer Carbery (in 2017-18) and Ryan Mougenel (’18-19), both of whom handled the P-Bruins D-men.

Before that, the staff at Quinnipiac University played a critical role.

“College hockey was great for me. I needed four years to develop and round out my game. Working with (head coach) Rand (Pecknold), Cash (Reid Cashman) and Joe Dumais for my four years there was huge, instrumental in my development,’’ Clifton said.

His former teammate, Chase Priskie, is the latest Bobcat to step up to the pro game, signing a free-agent deal with Carolina last month. He won’t be the last, according to Clifton.

“It’s just the beginning. There will be more in the near future,’’ he said.


After playing 19 games with Boston three seasons ago, Blidh played just one in each of the last two years.

Now in his fifth camp with the Bruins, he’s aiming to convince management that he is capable of being a full-time NHL player.

One of Blidh’s best attributes, according to Leach, is that he brings the same energy every night. Opponents know they won’t get a night off when he’s in the lineup.

In camp, he said, his goal is “to show up every day and show them what kind of player I am, a hard forechecking guy, never give up. Backcheck. Show them.’’


Bruce Cassidy tossed some compliments Paul Carey’s way after Saturday’s skate.

“Paul Carey looks real good to me. He’s a good player,’’ Cassidy said of the veteran left winger whose 22 goals in 30 games down the stretch last season played a pivotal role in Providence making the Calder Cup playoffs.

In 2015, Carey played for Cassidy in Providence for 17 regular-season games and four playoff games.

“You could see it. Had good speed, shoots the puck well,’’ Cassidy said. “He’s a great depth player for us.’’

Last word from Buffalo

IMG-2896 (3)

BUFFALO – After three days at the Prospects Challenge, it’s time to empty the notebook. Here are some odds and ends from the weekend.


It was a solid tournament overall for Boston’s better prospects.

Anders Bjork played well. Jack Studnicka had his moments, especially on Monday. After a couple of so-so games, Urho Vaakanainen was good on Monday.

“Anders had two strong games, was pretty noticeable. Urho had his best game today, was sharp moving pucks, involved,’’ GM Don Sweeney said after Boston’s 3-2 OT loss to New Jersey.

Jakub Lauko, per usual, let the other teams know he was there. Oskar Steen had 2-1-3 on Saturday night.

Trent Frederic played only one game, then was held out as a precaution with lower body soreness. Sweeney said he’ll be ready when Boston camp opens.

I didn’t see Kyle Keyser on Friday night, but he was sharp on Monday in 30 or so minutes.

Now it’s on to NHL training camp, where the men will be separated from the boys.


As far as his health is concerned, Bjork, who had a second shoulder surgery in January, is good to go.

“His strength has fully returned. He just hasn’t played hockey in a long time, so his timing needs (work),’’ Sweeney said.

“We may play him on the left side, his strong side, as opposed to his off side. He’s able to play both and I think you saw how effective he was against his peer group. Now he’s got to get acclimated to that next group.

“He’s been pretty honest that at times it’s been a bigger jump than he might have even thought. He’s got special qualities that we’re going to try and continue to harvest and see if he can make the jump.’’


Jakub Lauko could return to Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL, or he could turn pro with Providence. He’s eligible to play in Boston, too, but it doesn’t sound like that’s likely to happen this season.

“Jakob played real well the first two games. Might not have had his best game (Monday),’’ said Sweeney, summing up Lauko’s weekend.

The Bruins GM said the season in the Q helped the youngster.

“Maturity on and off the ice. Habits, details, things that he needed to work into his game, he’s slowly working into his game. We know how effective he is to get in on the forecheck and under the skin of players. … We’re excited about where he’s at.  We just know that he has details to put into his game,’’ Sweeney said.

“He’s the one that’s going to establish if he can play down (in Providence). We’re very, very cognizant of 19-year-olds playing in that league. It’s a big jump. Physically, we do not want them exposed to the possibility of getting injured. Obviously, anybody can get injured. We just want to be careful.’’


Studnicka got better as the tournament went on. He didn’t have a lot to show on the score sheet, though he made a nice pass to set up a power-play goal by Scott Conway against the Devils.

“I thought his execution – we talked about it a little a couple of days ago – was just OK. … That’s just part of being a 20-year-old kid learning how to be a pro. But he’s physical, he’s willing to shoot. He’s pretty good on his faceoffs. He can play in all situations. I thought he was pretty effective,’’ said coach Jay Leach.


It feels like we haven’t heard the last of Dante Hannoun, who scored the only goal for the Bruins on Monday.

He was an interesting player to watch all weekend. He’s only 5-foot-6 but didn’t play like it.

“Obviously, size doesn’t seem to bother him,’’ Sweeney said. “Goes to the (tough) areas of the ice. Is quick, he can dart, is effective on the power play, as well.

“He’s signed as a depth player for us, will be battling for a spot in Providence. If not (in the AHL), he’d start in Atlanta with (coach) Jeff Pyle down there. We’re excited about what he’ll bring to the table there.’’


After watching him for three years at Providence College, it was no surprise to me that rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson stepped in and played very well for the Sabres.

The elite skating that made him a great college player shone through. He retrieved pucks, eluded forecheckers and made smart plays exiting the defensive zone and entering the offensive end.

“I think I held my own out there, first pro games under my belt. It was exciting playing with a different group of guys and a different atmosphere than the college level,” Bryson said.

“I think I played three good games this weekend. It’s definitely different than playing two games every weekend in college hockey. You get a little more tired, it’s harder on the body.

“The pace was pretty similar to what we do with coach (Nate) Leaman at Providence. He’s one of the best coaches to play for and it carries into pro. The coaching staff here is amazing as well,’’ he said.

Bryson’s parents and a cousin made the two-plus-hour drive from London, Ontario, to watch the Friday and Saturday games.

The next step is Buffalo’s training camp, starting late this week.

“I’m excited. It’s my first one. It should be fun to keep it rolling with this group of guys,’’ he said.


Bryson’s PC teammate, Scott Conway, scored a goal in both games he played in for the Bruins.

“He’s the type of player … it doesn’t really look pretty, but it’s effective. Somehow he always gets that puck. Somehow he’s always in the right spot. Heady player and then when he gets an opportunity to bury, he buries, which is important,’’ Leach said.

Conway has an AHL deal with Providence.


I happened to see Tom Fitzgerald of the Devils minutes after his son, Casey, a Sabres rookie, pummeled 6-foot-5 Andrew Angello of the Penguins in a fight.

“Did you teach him that?’’ I asked.

“No, his mother did,’’ he replied, without skipping a beat.

More from Prospects Challenge


BUFFALO – Three more quick hits from the Prospects Challenge.


The performance of the Bruins’ 2017 first-rounder has been underwhelming so far this weekend.

With NHL jobs up for grabs in Boston’s training camp next week as Kevan Miller and John Moore recover from injuries, more will be expected from Vaakanainen, Boston’s top defense prospect, if he is to earn a place on the opening night roster.

Not that there’s any real cause for concern. It’s been only two games, after all.

“He’s certainly not exactly where he wants to be, not to say any of them really are,’’ said coach Jay Leach after practice on Sunday.

“He’s fighting it a little bit. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. He expects to be really good and in a tournament like this sometimes it’s hard to be really good, it’s so helter-skelter out there.’’

Leach compared Vaakanainen’s situation to Danton Heinen’s two years ago in Buffalo. Hoping to win an NHL job in camp, Heinen squeezed his stick a bit too tight in the early going before settling down and going on to a 47-point rookie season.

“You just have to kind of put it in check, understand the situation, that these games are a bit helter-skelter,’’ said Leach.

“Vaaks wants to be good. He’ll figure it out.’’


Coaches love players like Hughes, the Wisconsin alum drafted in the sixth round in 2015.

“He’s a utility guy. He can play wing. He can play center. He can play on the power play and the penalty kill. He’s a very heady player. He’s not afraid to be in the mix. He does a lot,’’ said Leach, who used Hughes at wing with Jack Studnicka and Anders Bjork on Saturday night

An under-the-radar, bottom-six prospect, Hughes will look to build on a fine rookie season (13-15-28 in 52 games) in Providence last year.

His season was interrupted when he went down with a knee injury in mid-February after a collision with a Charlotte player. “I actually got a penalty for slashing, so I don’t know what happened there. It was weird play,’’ said Hughes, who avoided surgery and was able to return to the lineup for the playoffs.

“He’s got a real good attitude. He competes. Does a lot of things that project to put him in consideration for further growth as a pro,’’ according to John Ferguson, Boston’s executive director of player personnel.

This season Hughes will look to “find that consistency that I had leading up to that injury. That was some of the best hockey I’ve played over a long stretch. To get to that point in the year pretty quick would be nice.’’


Never drafted, the 5-foot-6 Hannoun parlayed a light’s out performance for Prince Albert in the WHL playoffs – he led the league with 14 goals in 24 games – into an invite to play for the Bruins’ rookie team.

Hannoun, whose cousin is Toronto’s Nik Petan, was noticeable in Saturday night’s game, setting up a goal by Oskar Steen.

“He’s a little bulldog. He buried that guy on the wall there. He gets to the net. He made a nice play on that goal. He’s 5-6, but he’s sturdy. I knew he could make a play. He scored some big-time goals last year (for Prince Albert) in the WHL. These (smaller) guys, they find a way,’’ said Leach.

Atlanta of the ECHL is Hannoun’s most likely destination this season. First, he’ll probably attend Providence’s training camp, according to Ferguson.

“The biggest thing is opportunity. I got an opportunity here and I’ve just got to make the most of it, just keep working hard every day,’’ Hannoun said.

Quick Bruins hits from Buffalo


Anders Bjork (10) and Cameron Hughes, right, wait for Jack Studnicka to take a draw against the Sabres on Saturday night.

BUFFALO — Three one-timers from my first day at the Prospects Challenge.


I landed here on Saturday morning, so I didn’t see Friday’s win by the Boston Bruins over the Pittsburgh Penguins, but all reports were that Anders Bjork was one of Boston’s best players, scoring the winner in the dying seconds.

He played well again on Saturday against Buffalo. Skating at right wing beside center Jack Studnicka and left wing Cameron Hughes, Bjork made good things happen even though he was held without a point.

“He created. He’s involved. Obviously, he got a bunch of chances. Did a nice job,’’ said coach Jay Leach after Boston’s 4-3 loss.

“He’s definitely more assertive. He looks just a little bit more mature, is what I would call it. He’s certainly taking a step. Hopefully it continues.’’

As has been noted by a few observers, Bjork should be one of the better players in the Prospects Challenge. After all, he is farther along the development road at age 23 than many of the youngsters in Buffalo. Through two games, he’s delivered.

After two years cut short by shoulder surgeries, it seems to me that a solid stretch of games and good health in the AHL to start the season would be best for Bjork.


The 21-year-old Swede was Boston’s offensive star on Saturday, scoring the first two goals and assisting on the third in a 4-3 loss to the Sabres prospects.

After playing wing on Friday night, Steen was back at his customary place at center between Jakub Lauko and Dante Hannoun.

“I like both (positions), but I’ve played center all my life, so I think that’s my best spot,’’ Steen said.

After playing on Olympic-size rinks in Europe, he is adjusting to the less spacious North American rinks.

“I think I played better (Saturday) than (Friday). It’s a bit different between the small rinks and the big rinks,’’ he said.

“You don’t have so much time. It’s more playing north and south. You just go forward all the time,’’ he said. “I like it, but I just have to get used to it, be better at it.’’

Leach believes Steen – who is likely bound for Providence — will make the adjustment without a hitch.

“I haven’t seen much of a problem with him with the North American game. He’s straight lines. He’s ready to go,’’ he said.


This is a big year for Vladar, who is starting his fourth pro season at the age of 22.

He was the second goalie in Providence almost by default last season, but this time around he is competing with first-year pro Kyle Keyser to see who sticks with the P-Bruins. (Maxime Lagace, the 26-year-old signed as a free agent over the summer, is a lock for one of the AHL goalie slots).

Vladar was in the barrel against the Sabres on Saturday, and he gave up four goals on the first 19 shots he faced, including three in four minutes in the second period. But he turned away all 13 shots after that as the Bruins rallied to come within a goal late in the game.

“I felt better as the game went on. Obviously, those (four) minutes in the second period killed us. Overall, from my point, it’s the first game of the season, so it’s never easy for a goalie,’’ Vladar said.

“He’s got to find his spots,’’ said Leach. “When he’s routinely finding his posts, then he’s out and he’s big, he’s good. When he’s flopping around and he can’t find much, he’s not, he struggles. That’s what he’s got to find.’’

Vladar’s goal for the season is “to get a spot in Providence and run with it. I want to play as many games as I can.’’

He won’t be shying away from the competition.

“I’m just trying to enjoy it and work hard on my game to be the best I can,’’ he said.

Good start for new Mount St. Charles Hockey Academy


The new Mount St. Charles Hockey Academy’s four teams put up a combined record of 14-7-3 in last weekend’s Labor Day Cup tournament.

Very impressive numbers considering that the program has been in existence for only 12 months.

“We had expectations coming in of what we wanted to do, but starting out brand new at the school, we weren’t certain where we’d be,’’ said Devin Rask, the coach of the U16 team and the co-director of hockey operations along with Matt Plante.

“We’re very happy with the way we opened up. Being able to compete with some of the top programs right out of the gate, with four days of practice, is pretty exciting for us.’’

Plante, who coaches the U18 team, wasn’t surprised by Mount’s strong start.

“All four teams (U14, U15, U16 and U18) played some of the best teams in the country and were right there with those teams,’’ he said.

“The 15s and the 16s certainly proved that they are going to be right up there with the top teams in the country. I was disappointed with the 18s. I thought we should have advanced to the playoff round. We ended up finishing the weekend 3-1-1. Obviously a good weekend, but our goal was to get to the playoffs and give ourselves a chance to win it.

“We wanted a better result with our teams – what competitive coach doesn’t, right? – but if you look at the big picture and put it in perspective, it was a good start. We’re where we thought we could be,” said Plante.

Classes started this week and players will be able to settle into their routine of school work and practices.

“As coaches, you get so consumed by your day-to-day grind and trying to build your teams, we overlook that these are all brand-new kids at a brand-new school, brand-new coaching staff to them. There’s an adjustment not only on the hockey side, but socially, academically. These kids have got a lot going on right now in all facets. It’s a big adjustment,’’ said Plante.

College coaches turned out in force last weekend to check out the Mount teams. Before the tournament started, recruiters from Boston University and Maine came to Adelard Arena last week to watch practice. On Friday night, nine of 11 Hockey East teams watched the U16 and U18 games, including five head coaches. Coaches from the ECAC, Atlantic Hockey and the Big Ten checked in over the course of the weekend.

All eyes were on uncommitted winger Zachary Bolduc of the deep, talented U16 team. He didn’t disappoint, compiling a 5-5-10 line in 7 games. Bolduc scored a big-time goal on Monday in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Elite Penguins.

“He’s one of the difference makers,” said Rask.

Between them, the U15, U16 and U18 teams have nine Division I commitments so far, with more on the way.

“It’s all about getting these kids opportunities beyond high school,” said Plante.